Although it starts with a piece I wrote years ago (you can tell by the reference to our VCR), this actually IS a Father’s Day post. Promise.
My toaster took early retirement this week. This toaster had never really been happy in its work. In fact, it was a Toaster With An Attitude.
In some places, making toast is a private matter. In my house, it’s a family affair:
- Toastmaker: Mama, we’re all out of bread.
- ME: I just bought some.
- Toastmaker: I can’t find it.
- ME: Try the kitchen. In that big box on the counter with those huge B-R-E-A-D letters across the front.
- Toastmaker: Well, if you’re going to hide it…
- I also confess to having secreted the butter and jam in the refrigerator. My deviousness knows no bounds.
- Toastmaker puts bread into the toaster, which promptly regurgitates it.
- Toastmaker attempts to push the bread down again, causing the toaster to emit a scream that sounds like a mortally-wounded water buffalo. If Toastmaker persists, the scream escalates until it sounds like the beginning of a nuclear event or a Republican accused of supporting national healthcare.
- Toastmaster tries a diversionary tactic. “Will you look at the jug on that coffee-maker? What a build!” While the toaster is distracted, Toastmaker pushes the bread down again. The toaster, which has just been lulling Toastmaker into a false sense of security—toaster jokes are like that—promptly incinerates the bread.
- In its death-throes, the carbonized bread sets off the smoke alarm. Our smoke alarm, a household safety feature which also has two settings (Hair-Trigger-Response-To-Using-Any-Kitchen-Appliance, and Barb-Took-Out-Those-Batteries-Again-Thank-God) is louder than the toaster or even louder than those Republicans.
- The smoke alarm wakes up the baby, causing her to whimper. This brings all three of her siblings to her side, screaming helpfully, “The baby woke up.”
- The kids’ yelling wakes up our dog. Tasha (Motto: “I bark for hallucinations”) reacts. Millions of generations of selective breeding have not eliminated the instincts of her wolf ancestors. Although inaudible to human ears, her keen wolf-hearing receives a high-frequency message from the smoke alarm: “Bark hysterically, for soon the pack will feast on carbonized toast carcasses. But first, let’s piddle.”
- Toastmaker unplugs toaster, dumps it in the sink and takes the dog outside. By the time the dog remembers why she wanted to go outside, Toastmaker has decided it would be easier to eat crackers.
- Toastmaker: Mama, we’re all out of crackers.
So why, you may ask, do we still own the toaster? For the same reason that we are the proud possessors of the geriatric garage-door-opener (which is still perfectly good as long as you lift up on the door while you push the button). Or the VCR (which has its case removed but is still perfectly good as long as you insert the tape with both hands while while you hold down the Insert-button with your chin and push the Play-button with your knee).
The answer is that I grew up in a family where the 11th Commandment was, “Thou shalt not replace appliances until thy Daddy has repaired them at least three times. And even then thou shalt keep the carcasses in the garage to serve as organ donors for new appliances until moving houses shall deliver them unto the dump.”
I had friends who couldn’t recognize my father from the waist up, because all they ever saw were his legs sticking out from under the car or the washing machine. To the end of his days, my father mourned the loss of each “perfectly good” appliance and vehicle which was eventually replaced only when my mother threatened to leave. Without the ten kids…
Once, my aunt asked him to contribute to the family history she was compiling. His response was a list, by child, of the “perfectly good” cars/boats/appliances we had cost him. To read his recollections, you would never guess his kids had all graduated from college and gone on to become contributing members of society. (OK, one of us is a lawyer. But she really had no choice: her undergraduate degree was in sociology.)
I used to think the President should appoint my father as Secretary of Defense. As Secretary, he would make sure the nation got the most use possible out of each piece of military hardware even if he had to put that malfunctioning nuclear warhead or space station out in his garage and fix it himself from his stockpile of spare washing machine and Ford parts. There would be no $100K coffeemaker purchases, because he could fix the ones the military already owns using the shelf of Mr. Coffee corpses in the garage.
Congressional approval would be assured because my parents never hired undocumented immigrants (their strategy was to give birth to household help), never declared bankruptcy or invested in Whitewater Development Company, and never had affairs with interns, beauty queens, or foreign agents (again…TEN kids. No time.)
That’s why, when we gave my husband a new toaster for Father’s Day, I couldn’t just throw away the retiree. I brought it down to the basement to the Taub Home for Chronologically Gifted Terminally Inconvenienced Appliances. After all, just because it can’t toast bread doesn’t mean it isn’t a perfectly good toaster.